A Family Outing – 20 Years On at the Barbican
Is it possible to revive an autobiographical drama 20 years after its initial production? As part of the 2019 season Life Rewired, the Barbican stages Ursula Martinez’s A Family Outing, in which this question is raised. The problem? Martinez’s father Arthur, one of the cast, died 10 years ago, and her mother Milagros Lea can no longer remember any of her lines. So rather than an actual revival, 20 Years On represents more of a recap in which the playwright explores – together with her mother – the memories they share of the original performance. Oozing with plenty of comedy, this recap is a hilariously heart-warming exploration of family ties over the course of time.
The staging by director Mark Whitelaw is minimalistic, with a simple couch being the extent of the props. A recording of the original production from 1998 is playing in the background; the actors in the forefront perform the actual play, which mimics the occurrences in the original performance. There is no notable plot to speak of; instead, the piece takes the form of an ongoing reminiscence about family, ageing and memories – and is at times extremely powerful when doing so. As Martinez proceeds to unravel the themes of her script, she confronts the audience with plenty of nostalgia and the awareness that the past can never be truly revived.
But A Family Outing – 20 Years On is, at its heart, a comedy. The humour is of a high standard, presenting one powerful punchline after another, and the onlookers demonstrate appreciation throughout the one-hour runtime. Part of the comedy’s success springs from the excellent timing of both Martinez and her mother, who are extremely charming and convincing in portraying themselves on stage. The show may not change the world of theatre forever, but it is incredibly uplifting, funny, and above all perfectly entertaining, making this an easy performance to recommend to anyone.
Image: Toni Wilkinson
A Family Outing – 20 Years On is at the Barbican from 27th March until 30th March 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.